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Who Was Offered for Sacrifice - Isma‘eel or Ishaaq?


Ibraheem’s son who was offered for sacrifice and whose sacrifice was accepted without being killed was the most special son of Ibraheem in terms of Allaah’s promise of blessings on him and his descendents as well as in terms of honour and closeness to Allaah SWT. This special honour for the son and his descendents has created two differing claims as to the identity of the son who was offered for sacrifice.

As the sequence of events has demonstrated in the Festival of Sacrifice article, the Holy Qur-aan makes is abundantly clear that the son who was offered for sacrifice was the first-born. The second son, Isĥaaq (Isaac), was born miraculously as a reward for the acceptance of the sacrifice from Ibraheem and Isma‘eel (Ishmael).

The Muslims believe that the son whom Ibraheem offered for sacrifice was Isma‘eel, while the Jewish traditions claim that it was Isĥaaq.

In addition to the clear context and the sequence of the story, the Holy Qur-aan gives more clues in this regard. For example:

  1. An outstanding quality mentioned for Isma‘eel in the Holy Qur-aan is that he was true to his promise, because he willingly presented himself for sacrifice was and promised to be patient and steadfast. He was true to his word and willingly lay down to be slaughtered.
    And mention Isma‘eel in the book, he surely was true to his promise and was messenger prophet. Maryam 19:54

  2. The son who was offered for sacrifice was born in answer to prayers (Isma‘eel) and his outstanding quality was forbearance (Ĥilm) and patience (Sabr) as indicated in the verses quoted in the other article as well as the following:
    And Isma‘eel, Idrees and Dzul-kifl, all of them were from those who practice patience and steadfastness (Ŝaabireen). Al-Ambiyaa 21:85

    The son who was given because Allaah was happy with Ibraheem’s submission and who brought happiness to Sarah was Isĥaaq (derived from laughter) whose outstanding quality was knowledge:
    And they (angels) gave him (Ibraheem) the good news of a knowledgeable son. Adz-Dzaariyaat 51:28

    None of the attributes the fit with the personality of the son offered for sacrifice have been attributed to Iĥaaq (Isaac) as his outstanding qualities either in the Qur-aan or in the Bible.

  3. After concluding the story of Ibraheem with verse 112 as quoted in the Festival of sacrifice article, the Holy Qur-aan mentions makes a concluding statement for both sons of Ibraheem. In doing so, it mentions the son who was offered for sacrifice without name and then mentions Isĥaaq separately by name -- both being blessed by Allaah:
    And We blessed him (the one presented for sacrifice and mentioned in the verses 101-107) as well as Isĥaaq, and from descendents of both, there are good and there are those who are clearly unjust to themselves. Aŝ-Ŝaafaat 37:113

One may ask why the Holy Qur-aan has not clearly mentioned Isma‘eel’s name? The style of the Holy Qur-aan is that it does not mention anything that is clear from the text and is well known in the society. From the text and the order of the verses the fact was clear and evident that the son who was offered for sacrifice was the first-born and that the second son was born only after the incident of sacrifice. Similarly, In Arabian society, the incidence of sacrifice was well known and accepted. So much so that every year without fail Arabs used to present sacrifices in remembrance of Isma‘eel’s sacrifice. Hence to mention something that was very obvious was against the concise style of the Qur-aan. Had it not been Isma‘eel, the first-born who was given in answer to prayers, then the name would have definitely been mentioned. No mention of the name is evidence in itself that it was Isma‘eel.

Unfortunately, to discredit Arabs and the Prophet Muhammad Sall-Allaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam, the Jews manipulated their books and tried to hide the facts mentioned in the Bible about Ibraheem’s activities in Makkah, conceal his association with Holy Ka‘bah, and Marwah and tried to attribute sacrifice and other good things about Isma‘eel to Isĥaaq (Isaac). The Holy Qur-aan has repeated pointed out their such efforts in obfuscating and concealing the facts and encouraged to reform their behaviour. For example:

After giving a detail account of the achievements of Ibraheem and Isma‘eel including their construction of the Holy Ka‘bah, the Qur-aan says:
And who is more unjust than he who conceals a testimony that he has from Allaah? And Allaah is not at all unaware of what you do. Al-Baqarah 2:140

After mentioning Qiblah, it says:
Those whom We have given the Book recognize it as they recognize their sons, but some of them most surely conceal the truth while they know (it). Al-Baqarah 2:146

After mentioning Ŝafaa and Marwah, it says:
Surely those who conceal the clear proofs and the guidance that We revealed after We made it clear in the Book for people, it is they whom Allaah shall curse, and those who curse shall curse them (too). Except those who repent and amend and make manifest (the truth), it is they to whom I turn (mercifully); and I am the Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful. Al-Baqarah 2:159-160

After mentioning the truth about Holy Ka‘bah, Makkah and the Ĥajj, it says:
Say: O people with the Book! Why do you disbelieve in the revelations of Allaah, while Allaah is witness on what you do? Say: O people with the Book! Why do you hinder a believer from the way of Allaah, seeking to make it crooked, while you are witnesses (to its truth)? And Allaah is not unaware of what you are doing. Aali-‘Imraan 3:96-99

When many Jews and Christians became Muslims, some of them brought their knowledge and impressions about the previous Biblical personalities along with them and starting spreading those ideas among Muslims as well. When that kind of information started circulating among Muslims, it created confusions in the minds of some Muslims as well.

However, the Judaeo-Christian efforts to conceal the truth have succeeded very well. A little careful study exposes what has transpired. Their manipulation of their books have created many inconsistencies and improprieties. For example, they claim that the son who was offered for sacrifice was Isĥaaq (Isaac). They base their claim on the following verse of the Bible:
And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. Genesis 22:2

But, there is a slight problem with this statement in the Bible. According to the Bible itself when Isaac was born, Ibraheem already had a 14-year-old son, Isma‘eel. So, if the son who was offered for sacrifice was ‘the only son’, it cannot be Isaac because Isaac was never an only son even for one day. It has to be Isma‘eel who was ‘the only son’ for 14 years.

To this argument, their response is: ‘the only son’ actually means ‘the only son from his own wife’, or ‘the only blessed son’. Unfortunately, all of these explanations are fabricated because the words of the Bible ‘the only son’ do not include any of the qualifiers these people want to attach with the phrase. In addition, the Bible itself negates all of these claims. According to the Bible, Isma‘eel was Ibraheem’s, legitimate, beloved and blessed son as per the following examples:
And Sarah Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. Genesis 16:3
And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. Genesis 16:15
In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. Genesis 17:26

In fact, Isma‘eel was Ibraheem’s the most beloved son. When Ibraheem was given the good news that he would have another son, Isĥaaq, Ibraheem, instead of being excited about the second son, responded immediately with a duaa for Isma‘eel:
And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! (i.e., he lives under the kind, blessed and protective sight of Allaah SWT). Genesis 17:19

This indicates his passionate love for Isma‘eel. Allaah responded:
And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. Genesis 17:20

Another reason that it could not have been Isaac is that before Isaac was born, Allaah SWT told Ibraheem that:
And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, [and] with his seed after him. Genesis 17:19 KJV
Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. Genesis 17:19 RSV

If Ibraheem was already told that Isaac’s descendents will have covenant with Allaah, how could Allaah then test Ibraheem by asking for his sacrifice, considering also that episode of sacrifice happened long before the son offered for sacrifice could be married or have children?

In fact, the only son who was offered for sacrifice was given the good news of many descendents only at the completion of the episode of sacrifice, and the good news of Isaac’s birth was also given at that time:
And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only [son]: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which [is] upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. Genesis 22:16-18

Also the place where episode of sacrifice took place was Marwah – a hillock besides the house of Allaah in Makkah, which in the Bible was misspelled and pronounced as Moriah, of which name there has been no place.

Even if, for the sake of argument, we set aside every other evidence, the strongest evidence comes from the history, practices and traditions of Jews and Arabs. It is a well-known fact Jewish customs and practices have been largely determined by the lifestyle of their patriarchs. They circumcise their children because Ibraheem did; they do not eat the meat from the hind of an animal because of an incident that occurred when Jacob Wrestled with God; they do not eat anything that Jacob did not eat for his own personal reasons, etc. Surprisingly, their whole history is devoid of any practice of sacrifice in remembrance of Ibraheem’s sacrifice.

On the other hand, since the day Isma‘eel was offered as sacrifice, Arabs have been offering sacrifice of animals at the same place where on the same day of the year when the original sacrifice happened in commemoration of the sacrifice of their great, great grandfather. That had continued throughout their history every years without fail until the advent of Muhammad ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and has continued since then among Muslims without any break.

It is reported that even the horns of the Ram which replaced Isma‘eel had been preserved in the Holy Ka‘bah but were lost when the building of the Ka‘bah collapsed during the army action by Ĥajjaaj bin Yousuf.

In fact, every year, millions of people start their journey of Ĥajj with the same words that Ibraheem uttered when he realized that he has been called upon to sacrifice his son. Even the Bible records that:
After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." Genesis 22:1

The people going for Ĥajj say the same thing:
Labbayk, Allaahumma Labbayk. Here I am, O Allaah, here I am.

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